Creating spectral highlights where you want them.

Materials needed:
Small cosmetic mirror
Laser pointer
Good aim

I was recently on a show in Shreveport, LA as a camera op with Matthew as the Gaffer. I had a close up shot that I was picking off and the BG behind the talent was too dark for a daytime scene so Matthew and I were discussing getting light in the corner. We put up a head in an attempt to put a highlight in the BG and we didn’t really care for it. We decided to try to get some spectral highlights off some books but couldn’t for the life of us find where exactly to place the head to get the light to reflect right back into the lens.

Here comes the good part. I had the idea to get a small mirror from the MAU department, similar to one that’s carried inside a purse, and put that on the bookshelf at the exact place I wanted the spectral highlights to be and put the laser pointer on top of the matte box perpendicular to the MB. I then aimed the laser pointer at the mirror and it then reflected off and hit a wall out of the frame (we of course angled the mirror so the laser point ended up hitting out of frame) and put the head right in the beam of the laser and boom, we had perfect spectral highlights.
–of course, this trick is unnecessary if you can find the angle of incidence, but if you are struggling, this is a sure fire way make it happen, quick.–

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Using zip ties to rig a light to a pillar

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Hey guys, sorry for the lack of posts lately. They will come as often as we can. Anyways, the below trick is pretty neat.

I was juicing a feature in Antioch, IL a few weeks ago. The gaffer, Trevor Crist, told me to rig PAR46’s to a pillar that had a diameter of 7″ or so. He ended up teaching me a really neat little trick that day about how you can manipulate rigging for small fixtures. Low and behold, I used 2 large zip ties to go around the pillar and the yoke of the fixture. Like so(sorry about the iPhone quality, I know it’s shitty):

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The weight of the fixture is what held them in place. A really neat trick that can keep “clunky” chain vice grips out of the image as in this case, the camera saw the PARs in the BG.

Cheers,
Peter Mosiman

Shiny boards and parcans

Well, I’m currently on set so I this will be short and sweet. The other night I was lighting a “romantic” and non-cliche rain make out scene outside of this huge mansion in the hills. The shoot was super lat minute and I didn’t have a choice of the gear I’d have so I had to go with what was on the truck, which was mostly parcans and shiny boards. There were a few mickeys and tweenies as well, but I’m a big fan of parcans so I stuck with those for the night.

I was messing around with throwing spot parcans around and bouncing them off different things, which in this case included a 4by4 silver shiny board. The result was unexpected and awesome.

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It spread out like crazy and was much softer than bare. It was a fun discovery and parcans are wicked cheap fixtures to own and rent and you can do a lot with them. I recommend trying them out.

Cheers lighting friends,
PM

The “Cove” Light

This weekend I have been working GnE as a volunteer for the MastersPOV Cinematography Conference. It has been an absolute joy setting lights for 2 fantastic and renowned ASC members — Karl Walter Lindenlaub, ASC/BVK & Gabriel Beristain, ASC/BSC — and working under a gaffer who’s been in the business for longer than I’ve been alive. Anyhow, I’ll get down to it, the “cove” light.

This light was used to make an accent on the back wall of the set at the fireplace. It was about 2’x2′ however, I can see it scaling up to be used for much larger tasks if need be. What you need:
– art card, or show card
– tape, paper or gaff is fine
– black wrap or flag or more art card to act as a topper
and that’s about it, minus whatever fixture you deem necessary of course.

You have one person who makes a “U” with the card while the second person tapes the sides to each other like so (picture below) at both the top and bottom and this allows it to stand on its own.

We ended up using black wrap as a topper like so…

and this is w/o the LED fixture turned on as it sits on a beaver board (baby base plate drilled into a pancake)…

Here it is at the end turned on…

I apologize for not having a still from camera to show you and for the iPhone pictures, but, they are always better than nothing.

Hope to see this around and use it myself when I get backed into a corner!

Cheers,
PM

Handheld support rig for Arri BL4

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Back in June 2011, I DP’d a short film called Luzia. It was an amazing experience. Kodak was gracious enough to sponsor our film by donating a good amount of their 250D Vision3 5207. Thanks to Gene Fojtik, an independent filmmaker in Chicago, for helping us get our hands on Arri’s classic BL4. Our support gear and glass, the Cooke S4s, were supplied by MPS – Chicago (Motion Picture Services).

Luzia – Frame grab

The main issue we encountered on set was the weight of the camera. We mostly flew handheld and since we had only one 400ft mag and two 1000ft mags, we found ourselves using the 1000ft mags pretty consistently. Whether we had a 400ft or 1000ft strapped to the camera, plus the support gear, and a Cooke prime, the camera was a good 45 – 60 pounds.

The weight was exhausting, so we had to think of a quick solution. Dillon Schneider, my First AC and Josh Cubas, my Key Grip, devised a rig that not only allowed me to operate handheld comfortably on the BL4, but also practically saved the production. Big thanks to them!

Rig: 2 Combo stands, 1 8×8 square stock, 1 ratchet strap.

Every camera is different, but the way the BL4 is designed worked great for the rig. The picture above was our first “prototype” of the rig. With the square stock gripped into the lollypops on the combos, we were able to hook the ratchet strap and feed it through and around the top handle of the BL4. This basic setup allowed us to raise and lower camera to achieve desired height. It particularly came in handy for any shots above water and when extremely low angle shots were required.

Once combo was stemmed down all the way, loosening the ratchets allowed for lower camera angles

What good is creating a rig if one doesn’t master it? Throughout the shoot we constantly added something new to the rig. More ratchets to support the camera, wedges between the square stock and the lollypops, and Junior offset arms. On any project, offset arms always seem to add that extra element that makes your rig that much better and that much more secure. For us, they were great for rigging monitor and hanging batteries, BNC cable, and pouches for our iPhones.

Our rig at it’s prime.

My only problem with the rig, was the inability to walk with the camera, or create any forward movement. The rig saved my neck and my film. It may not have been the most ideal, but due to budget restrictions we definitely made it work to our advantage and got the shots needed to tell the story. This was a perfect example of finding yourself in a tough spot on set and how your crew can rise up and save the day. In the end,You’re only as good as your crew. 🙂

If you have any questions regarding the rig, Luzia, or any of my processes, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to share what I have learned.

Cheers!

Matthew Rivera

Lighting with Mirrors for Stop Motion and VFX Photography – Brent Yontz

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Lighting with mirrors for stop motion photography, as I have discovered, prove to serve 4 primary purposes:

  1. Efficient use of light, cutting down on the number of lighting sources per setup.
  2. Adding a “kiss” of detail to subjects.
  3. Creating special stop motion lighting effects.
  4. Aiding in green screen / blue screen extension in order to minimize green spill.

In a spot I photographed for Visine, I utilized a 12”x12” mirror to cast a shaft of sunlight behind the puppets for background separation and environmental lighting. My key light, a 1K Baby coming from off frame left through an 18×24 silk, is lighting the two puppets, with another 1K Baby backlighting the puppets as sunlight. The 12”x12” mirror with a baby spud attached and mounted in a gobo head was drilled down onto the set. This allowed me to position the mirror where I wanted and then lock it down. By opening up the 18×24 silk just a bit to let some spill light hit the mirror, I could use the angle of reflection to cast a clean hit of light behind the two puppets. Finally, to top it off, I placed pieces of black gaffers tape on the mirror’s surface in order to create the hard cut of light. This proved to be an efficient use of lighting sources as I was only using two lights in order to create a very clean, commercial look.

In the short narrative film, Nanuq, I would often use mirrors to add just a “kiss” of detail to the subjects. In this frame, my key light is hitting the subject off camera right. Again, using the 12”x12” mirror attached to the gobo head, I was able to position it to use the angle of reflection to my advantage again by catching it off the key and back onto the subject. This provided a very simple, yet effective touch of detail to the puppet that would have otherwise lost detail.


Frame right, the 12”x12” mirror catches ambient top light from 2 Baby Fresnels and fills in the shadows of the puppet’s clothing and face.

For this frame, again I utilized mirrors to add detail into parts of the puppet that would otherwise not have had them. I used a mirror for the teeth of these dog puppets by catching their backlight and bouncing the light up into their mouths to make them “glow.”

In Nanuq, the main character Nanuq in human form transforms into Nanuq in bear form. In order to create a visually interesting lighting special effect, I took a hammer to a mirror and then compiled the pieces, gluing them back together and mounting them onto a ball and socket rotatable arm drilled to the set. This allowed for the mirror pieces to be animated while catching the puppet’s backlight, which in the end created a water reflection/electrical magic lighting effect.

Finally, pictured here is a mirror used to photograph a green screen element. This technique provides a cleaner approach than green screening the surface underneath the puppet and helps control the amount of spill light bouncing onto the puppet from beneath.

Visiting writer and DP (sometimes his own gaffer),
        Brent Yontz

Mirrors

First off, if you haven’t messed with mirrors yet, you need to put down what you are doing right now and pick one up and just see what it does with light. Wave it around, see how far sunlight will travel. It is fantastic.

A few months ago I gaffed a show called Roundabout American and Matthew was my key grip. Together we fell in love with mirrors.  We used them twice to great effect.

The first go around was when we were trying to figure out a way to reproduce police siren lights without getting rolling shutter on the AF100. The cop cars in Chicago are all mounted with blue LEDs that are bright as hell and a massive headache for digital cameras with poor rolling shutter. The DP wanted the look of the old style cop sirens that spin. What Matthew and I came up with was three 1’x1′ mirrors in a triangle configuration  mounted onto a triple riser baby stand. We took two Source4’s on their own stands 4ft away from the mirror rig. One had theatrical blue and the other theatrical red at about the 10 and 2 position with the mirror rig at the center. We used the top 2 risers to stick up above camera and then just loosened the bottom riser to spin the rig around & around creating the police light effect. It actually worked so well that the neighbors came out to see what the commotion was!
(sorry for the poor quality of pictures, was a mad rush that day)

The other time we used mirrors was when we were doing a poor man’s process for a driving limo sequence. It is one of the oldest tricks in the book to put a car on a stage for either night or green screen work and use moving fixtures to make the car look like its passing by street lamps. The DP wanted this effect and fresh off of our success with the police light, I thought we could get away with putting those 1×1 mirrors on the ends of c-arms and spin those around while the light just sits underneath doing its thing.
1) This makes the controlling of the street lamp speed much easier than if there was a fixture at the end of that c-arm.
2) It’s cleaner.
3) Here’s a short video I took with my phone while we were waiting to shoot. Should clear things up!

Cheers,
PM

My version of the “Hanna” light

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There is a fixture that a colleague of mine, David Kruta (http://www.davidkruta.com/) came up with that he coined the Hanna light because of its inspiration from the film Hanna. If you have read the ASC article and seen the film, you will know why it is inspired by Hanna, and if you don’t, then I recommend doing both right now as they are fantastic.  David is going to be writing an article for us here soon enough and I’ll wait for him to give you all the finer details on his setup. Without giving too much away, it’s a bunch of xmas lights taped or somehow rigged to a reflector of some kind.

My version of the light was fashioned with what I had available to me on set that day which is comprised of a 2×2 Beadboard with bulb string lights — http://www.partylights.com/Strings-Bulbs/GlobeLightSets/G40-25-Light-Set-Clear — taped to it.  Believe it or not, it’s that simple. I couldn’t really believe my eyes when I saw the quality of light it put out, and, with only one string, the quantity. Here are some iPhone pictures of the fixture as well as a still frame from the project.



I came up with this to create a low-key fill light that also doubled as a nifty eye-light. I am sure it has been done before, but I’m so head over heals about it I just had to share it.  As always, any questions you have, you can hit me up at gaffersuniteinfo@gmail.com or at peter.mosiman@gmail.com.

Cheers,
Peter Mosiman

It’s been awhile…

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Yup, Matthew, David, and I are all well aware that it has been a long time since we have posted anything of note, well anything at all really. This is going to change.

Our posts have always tried to be rather lengthy and “intense” and on occasion that will still happen, but I am going to try to keep a consistent flow of pictures and quick explanations of lighting setups coming your way.

I work a lot as does David and Matthew. In the last few months, I have moved to LA from Chicago to continue my career and have been primarily gaffing (and occasionally DP’ing) music videos. This is a very different turn of events for me as I spent most of my time in Chicago on narrative sets. Gaffing MV’s has been a rather nice break from gaffing narrative as I mostly get to play around with fixtures and ideas that I wouldn’t necessarily get the chance to do otherwise.
Before I left I gaffed 2 features and DP’d a 3rd called Arthouse Junkies (shameless plug, http://arthousejunkies.com/).

Matthew has been gaffed many student short films in the last few months and has DP’d a film as well called Luzia (another shameless plug, http://www.luziafilm.com/), which is just gorgeous, and reminds you why film is the shit. His has far more experience than David or I gaffing for actual film projects. If you have any questions or inquiries in this area, he is your man.

David has been super busy as well crewing on a bunch of projects from indie features to commercials as well as having DP’d two incredible-looking projects. You can check out one of them at http://bloodontheplain.com/ and the other is currently in post.

Looking forward to spending a great amount of time learning and growing with our online community!

Cheers,
Peter Mosiman

Rigging pulley systems

David, Matthew and I were all heavily involved in a project a month or two back (Dave DP’d it, I was supposed to gaff but Matthew ended up gaffing as other things came up) but we were all apart of this project called Blood on the Plain. For the short film, there was a school dance sequence in a gymnasium that turned into a mass killing by these creatures. So it had to look dark and moody, and yet beautiful. David came up with the idea of rigging a bunch of 1K par-cans to a 12×12 grid of speed rail and hanging that off the gymnasium ceiling (there were numerous other ideas, but for the amount of light we needed and the fact that the lights needed to be pointing straight down, we ended up with par-cans). I have to say that our good buddy Scott Theile helped David flesh out the idea and showed us all how to use pulley systems to our advantage.

Okay, so now onto actually showing you what we did.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of us actually hoisting up the rig as we were all pulling together to make it happen, but as you can see, the speed rail is tied up at each corner and the rope is going up into the ceiling onto pulleys that are held up by runners and carabiners on the I-beams in the ceiling.

Now, this system made it a hell of a lot easier for us to rig up our setup, including the 12×12 solids that were also hoisted up via rigging rope and pulleys as siders to the whole rig. If we ever needed to, not that we ever did, we could adjust the height of the siders or the light rig itself for more output or more contrast.

What you need to rig using a pulley system…
– 100ft sections of rigging rope
– carabiners, climbing quality
– runners, climbing quality
– pulleys

This trick is definitely something that you keep in your back pocket when rigging up lights in a space thats not feasible to have stands on the ground or if you are outside in a forrest or something similar.  Extremely handy thing to have in your back pocket, of your mind of course.
David will attach images from the actual film to show how it turned out…

Cheers,
Peter Mosiman